Red Devils upset Tigers in semifinals
By Jon Fleck
For the Mirror
Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Central Cambria all took to the ice Thursday hoping to keep the dream of a Laurel Mountain Hockey League championship alive.
Central Cambria still has a shot to hoist the league’s championship cup. The season’s over for Altoona and Hollidaysburg.
The Mountain Lions’ bid for a third straight title ended with a 7-5 loss to State College in the first semifinal game at Galactic Ice, and Central Cambria scored five goals in the second period for a 9-5 upset over the Golden Tigers in the nightcap.
The Red Devils play State College 7 p.m. at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena Tuesday for the league title.
“We played our best game of the year the other night in the quarterfinals against Conemaugh Valley. I told our kids we’d have to do it again to beat Hollidaysburg. They rose to the challenge,” CC coach Tom Eckenrod said.
Hollidaysburg entered the game as the LHML regular-season champ at 20-0, which included two decisive wins over Central Cambria early in the season.
When Justin Singer scored just 15 seconds into the game, it looked like the Golden Tigers’ dominance would continue.
Braden Sweeney quickly let Hollidaysburg know his team would not go away so easy, however, with a goal less than a minute later.
“That first shift was great. We just didn’t back it up the rest of the game,” Hollidaysburg coach Sean McTighe said. “They battled right back and took advantage of our mistakes, which we just kept repeating.”
Tied 2-2 at the end of one, Central Cambria got goals from Jackson Vukman and Ian Swope 1:23 apart early in the second period for a 4-2 lead.
Hollidaysburg’s Daniel Larkin fired in a shot over the goalie’s blocker from the right circle to make it a 4-3 game, but the Red Devils scored three times in the final 4:45 of the period for a commanding 7-3 lead. Those seven goals came on just 16 shots.
“You can’t put all that on the goalie. He didn’t get much help,” McTighe said. “The goalie’s job is to make the first save and the other guys need take care of the rebounds. We didn’t do a good enough job in front of the net cleaning things up.”
Sweeney, Chase Stormer and Dylan Bloom each scored a pair of goals, and the Red Devils held league-leading scored Nate Nebelski to just two assists.
“Last year, we were under .500 and out of the playoffs. To do what we did this season is a great accomplishment. We have a lot of younger players so the future is bright,” McTighe said.
The Altoona-State College game was much more competitive, going down to the final minute before Robert Zimmerman scored his fourth goal of the night on an empty-netter with 43 seconds left to seal the victory.
Altoona got goals from Brock Vancas and Tyler Umbleby in the first nine minutes for an early 2-0 lead, but the Little Lions took the lead with three straight goals.
Altoona tied the game three times before State College went ahead for good on a flukey goal with 3:55 left in the game.
From behind the net, one of the SC players put the puck out front where it kicked off a skate and went in.
Goalie Evan Montgomery never saw it, Altoona coach Don Burgmeier said.
“It was in the net before we even knew what happened,” Burgmeier said. “We kept battling back, but just couldn’t get that next one to get the lead. Hockey’s a game of mistakes, and we made more than they did.”
Umbleby led the Mountain Lions with two goals and an assist. Owen Kravetz had a goal and an assist.
“We went 59-6-1 over the last three years with two league championships. It hurts now, but when you look at the big picture, they’ve done some great things,” Burgmeier said. “They can come back here years from now and see their names on those banners. That’s something nobody can take away.”
SCORE BY PERIODS
Altoona 2 1 2–5
State College 1 3 3–7
FIRST PERIOD: A — Vancas (Vipond), 13:13; A — Umbleby (Cumming, Shildt), 6:27; SC — Zimmerman (Kerber), 5:22.
SECOND PERIOD: SC — McCurdy (Velasquez) SH, 14:06; SC — Rinehart-Stover (Stratton, Mansell) PP, 10:55; A — Homan (Umbleby), 2:37; SC — Zimmerman (Wandrisco, Kerber), :30.
THIRD PERIOD: A — Kravetz (Thompson, Homan), 13:18; SC — Zimmerman (unassisted), 8:59; A — Umbleby (Kravetz, Cumming), 4:30; SC — Velasquez (Olsen), 3:55; SC — Zimmerman (Mansell, Williams), :43.
Goalies: Montgomery (A), saved 36-of-41 shots faced; Olsen (SC), saved 21-of-26 shots faced.
Records: Altoona (17-5); State College (18-3).
SCORE BY PERIODS
Central Cambria 2 5 2–9
Hollidaysburg 2 1 2–5
FIRST PERIOD: H — Singer (Martinek, Nebelski), 14:45; CC — Sweeney (unassisted), 13:47; H — Miller (unassisted), 3:40; CC — Stormer (Plowman, Semetkoskey), 2:51.
SECOND PERIOD: CC — Vukman (Bertuzzi), 11:39; CC — Swope (Zhang), 10:16; H — Larkin (Dunlap), 8:44; CC — Bloom (Bertuzzi), 4:45; CC — Johnson (Plowman), 1:53; CC — Sweeney (Bloom, Swope), :10.
THIRD PERIOD: CC — Stormer (unassisted), 7:11; H — Kirkham (unassisted), 6:29; H — Zoerner (Nebelski), 3:53; CC — Bloom (Sweeney), 3:03.
Goalies: Nanni (CC), saved 29-of-34 shots faced; Snowberger (H), saved 18-of-19 shots faced.
Records: Central Cambria (16-6); Hollidaysburg (20-1).